A bunch of raw maitake mushroom on a chopping board

Health benefits of maitake mushroom

A bunch of raw maitake mushroom on a chopping board

Health benefits of maitake mushroom

The nutrient-dense maitake is a highly regarded adaptogen with a long history of use throughout China and Japan both as a culinary and medicinal mushroom. And the health benefits of maitake mushroom are vast and plenty (exactly how we like our shrooms). It’s thought to do some rather awesome stuff — like support immunity, boost energy, balance blood sugar and even improve fertility. In fact, its potent healing powers were so well celebrated that its name “maitake” literally translates to “dancing mushroom”, originating from a time when foragers would dance for joy upon discovery.

Oh, and we completely understand the jumping for joy thing, cos to us, maitake is like the perfect date. They make you feel good, they make you dance, and they’re devilishly handsome (three words: frilly, brown, caps).  But there’s so much more than meets the eye.

So, what are the health benefits of maitake mushrooms (AKA King of the Mushrooms). Let’s dig into it.

1. Maitake balances blood sugar

When consumed as a part of a healthy diet, maitake mushrooms may help to stabilise blood sugar levels. Sustaining high levels of sugar within your blood can be, to put it lightly, pretty bad for you. Not only can consistent high blood sugar lead to the development of diabetes, but it can also cause side effects like headaches, increased thirst and blurred vision. When blood sugar levels are high, the insulin in your body spikes in output — chronic excess levels lead to insulin resistance (diabetes).

The polysaccharides within maitake (called beta-glucans) are shown to significantly diminish the levels of insulin and sugar-bound haemoglobin. Even more interesting, studies have shown that maitake also has a special type of sugar-protein super combo which gives it the ability to almost reverse insulin resistance (watch this space for further study).  One animal study found that the fruit of the maitake mushroom held anti-diabetic properties that helped to improve glucose tolerance and blood glucose levels in diabetic mice.

2. maitake for cancer cells

Some researchers believe the health benefits of maitake mushrooms are so powerful, it may even help to slow tumour growth. A highly purified, bioactive extract of beta-glucans found in maitake called maitake D-Fraction has been used in clinical research to find the potential connection between the mushroom and cancer cells.

One study found that administering an extract derived from maitake to cancerous mice helped to effectively block tumour growth. What’s more, another clinical trial tested a combination of maitake powder and D-fraction in cancer patients who discontinued chemotherapy due to side effects. It found significant improvement — cancer regression occurred in 69% of breast cancer patients, 58% of liver cancer patients and 63% of lung cancer patients.

Research is still limited, but what has been found is already so promising that the US National Cancer Institute has officially acknowledged the anti-cancer properties of the mushroom, while Chinese doctors already use D-fraction alongside traditional cancer medicine — wow!

A line of four spoons containing maitake mushroom powder

3.Maitake lowers cholesterol levels

Cholesterol. If left unchecked, it can build up inside the arteries causing them to harden and narrow. This eventually blocks blood flow, forcing your heart to work harder to pump blood throughout the body. Although research is limited (primarily to animal studies), the research that has been done suggests maitake mushrooms could help to naturally lower cholesterol levels and keep the heart healthy. One of these studies found that supplementation with maitake mushrooms was effective in reducing cholesterol levels in mice. We’re optimistic that more trials and research could pave the way for maitake and heart disease prevention in the future.

4. Maitake boosts the immune system

A healthy immune system is the most important tool our body needs to combat injury and infection. It’s vital to overall health. While our body naturally has the resources it needs to defend itself against foreign attackers, we can still help it along with some immune-boosting strength.  

Maitake is a powerful adaptogen chock-full of beta-glucans, which are basically a bunch of good guys that help to activate your immune system. Plus, the bioactive extract of beta-glucans found in maitake (D-Fraction) work to activate a host defence response within the body, helping the immune system to rapidly fight against illness, remove cellular waste from the body and speed up recovery.

5. maitake promotes fertility and helps with PCOS

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition that affects approximately 12-25% of Australian women of reproductive age, and is one of the leading forms of infertility. In short, hormonal irregularities cause small cysts to form on the ovaries which can be associated with a range of other side effects including irregular and painful menstrual cycles, acne, obesity, excessive facial and body hair growth and increased risk of diabetes.

There are two ways maitake may help with the disease. As most cases of PCOS are related to some level of insulin resistance, maitake works in the same way here as it does in people with diabetes (see the “super sugar combo” above). Secondly, maitake has been found to not only be therapeutic against PCOS, but can encourage ovulation. A 2010 study in Tokyo found that maitake extract was able to induce ovulation for 77% of participants with PCOS (and was almost as effective as some of the conventional medicines used for current treatments).

How to take maitake

If you’re looking to incorporate maitake into your diet, there are many ways to do so. Unlike many of our other medicinal mushroom friends, maitake is one of the few species that actually tastes great! Maitake mushrooms have a subtle, rich flavour that can pair beautifully in a pasta dish, risotto, soup, omelette, or sauce.

However, if you’re looking for a more concentrated dosage to take daily, you can incorporate maitake supplements into your diet. Here at Natura Mushrooms, maitake mushroom is available in:

 Just add maitake to your coffee, smoothie or main meal!

We recommend taking:

  • A ½ teaspoon of maitake powder daily, or
  • 2 ml of maitake liquid extract daily.

As always, we recommend consulting your doctor or health care professional before trying new mushroom supplements. While maitake is considered safe to consume, it can impact blood sugar levels and immunological activity within your body, so it’s best to seek advice first.